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The Bahamas - National Heritage sites allow Bahamian students a scientific and
educational advantage to learn and interact with virgin biodiversity
Park, off Cowpen Road, is one of many national sites currently being nominated
by the Bahamas National Trust (BNT), as a biosphere reserve to be added to
UNESCO's World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR), as international protected
areas. The Bahamas will be added to its recent list of 564
internationally protected areas in 109 countries worldwide...
THE Bahamas National Trust (BNT) is working with the San Salvador Living Jewels Foundation, a local conservation organisation, to expand the national parks system to include five areas in the island: Southern Great Lake, Pigeon Creek and Snow Bay, Grahams Harbour, West Coast Dive Sites and Green's Bay.
Four-year-old fine art photographer Joshua Marshall just hit newsstands in the Winter 2013 edition of Profiles 98 magazine.
Joshua is featured as a contributing photographer. His work shows artists participating in "Kingdom Come", the 6th National Exhibition (NE6) of the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (NAGB).
Joshua's mother Candis Marshall, who was featured in the exhibition, recalled Joshua's fascination with many of the pieces, particularly the installations and how they came together.
Joshua's development in photography stemmed from a therapy his mother used when he was two years old.
As a toddler, he had been a brain box with very wide interests but he was also diagnosed with epilepsy.
Joshua experienced a major seizure that affected his speech and coordination and his ability to communicate. Though his mind was still processing at the same rate, he could not convey his thoughts and needs the way he had become accustomed.
It was through photography that Candis found a way for her son to communicate.
With his camera, Joshua began taking photographs of what he wanted to say and after a while, learned how to explain the photograph and what he wanted to convey.
This was just the beginning of an amazing journey that led to Joshua being noticed by artist Antonius Roberts and the editor of Profiles 98 magazine.
"The editor of Profiles 98, Tercena Carey, has an unquenchable desire to ensure that every Bahamian artist or designer that is willing to hone their craft and is committed to truly representing The Bahamas globally gets an opportunity to do just that with some of the world's most well known individuals and entities as their captive audience," Candis said.
"She has had many opportunities to meet with Joshua and view his work privately and at our recent exhibition (at Hillside House in January). She was so impressed with his ability, mostly because of his age but also because of his eye for detail. [So] she decided to give him a chance to showcase his work in the Winter 2013 issue of Profiles 98."
Profiles 98 is distributed throughout The Bahamas as well as in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia, Guyana, Antigua, Bermuda and Haiti. It also distributed at fashion events (most recently at New York Fashion Week), spas and hotels in the Caribbean and the U.S.
So far, Joshua's work has been featured at the Bahamas National Trust Art and Wine Festival and Antonius Roberts' Studio and Gallery at Hillside House, in addition to the magazine.
He has also sold three posters and three original fine art prints - two of which are on display at AFS Insurance Brokers, Carmichael Road.
His mother is currently writing a book about him called "I Am Peter Parker", stemming from Joshua's fascination with Spiderman's alias, Peter Parker, the photographer with superhuman abilities.
TREASURE CAY, Abaco -- Abaco's Chief Councilor today labelled as "heartbreaking" the destruction of acres of wetlands, slashed by heavy equipment on a site being developed under expansion plans by a resort known as Treasure Sands despite a cease and desist order by government.
"I don't blame the developer," says North Abaco Chief Councilor Gary Smith. "Nor do I blame the government in Nassau. The Minister of Finance for Investments Khaalis Rolle did the proper and honourable thing and we are very grateful to him for recognizing that protecting the environment and proceeding with the right permits is important for the long-term sustainable growth and development of any community."
But something thwarted the delivery of the cease and desist order once it got to Abaco, he said, and an investigation is ongoing to learn why it was not presented to the developer for some three weeks after it arrived, enough time for centuries of mangrove, wetlands and hardwood forests to be mowed down. The Abaco Council and two environmental groups, Abaco Defenders and Save The Bays, are trying to get to the bottom of the delay.
"In the three weeks between when the cease and desist order was signed and when it was actually presented to the developer, irreparable damage was done to the wetlands in Treasure Cay," said Smith. "Before, this place was a haven -- a sanctuary for birds and bonefish. You could see the nurse sharks coming in and the baby nurse sharks. The wetlands were the nursery for all sorts of species." The Bahamas National Trust had plans to turn the area into a national park. Today, the scarfed land is a stark reminder, said Smith, of how quickly something that took centuries to form can be wiped out.
FREEPORT, The Bahamas - The Grand Bahama branch of the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) recently received a donation of hammers, gloves, shovels and other equipment from Bahama Rock, the Reef Ball Foundation, Paradise Cove and ES Caribbean. The donation is a great example of a partnership between local and international organizations helping each other to help protect the environment.
"The BNT is appreciative of the tools donated through this partnership, which will significantly assist with ongoing work at the Rand Nature Center and Lucayan National Park," commented Lakeshia Anderson, Grand Bahama Parks manager. "We certainly look forward to building this relationship with these partners, to advance further conservation work in Grand Bahama."
Thanks to Bahama Rock's donation, volunteers were able to assist with preparing the reef balls for deployment into the water. Students from The College of Bahamas (COB), the Royal Bahamas Defense Force (RBDF) Rangers, St. George's Marine Conservation Group, and Lucaya International School were all a part of the initiative. While helping with the reef balls, the students participating all got a chance to learn about the importance of conservation and preservation of our shorelines.
With the reef ball project coming to an end, a decision has been made to re-donate the items to the BNT for use with national park maintenance on Grand Bahama. The donation was greatly appreciated by the BNT, as the supplies which were donated are a necessity when it comes to maintaining the parks.
Cheri Wood, a BNT member and volunteer noted, "Let this stand as a shining example of people and businesses that really care about the future of our environment and understand that we all must help each other if we are to succeed in keeping our island beautiful and healthy for generations to come."
KINGSTON, Jamaica - It's hard to imagine that Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the darling of the entire Caribbean, has never stepped foot on the sunny islands of The Bahamas.
This May, she intends to change that by taking part in the inaugural International Association of Athletics Federations' (IAAF) World Relay Championships, and the compact World and Olympic Champion is looking forward to the trip.
Winning four of the past five sprint global titles outdoors in the 100 meters (m), and by adding a 60m indoor title this year, the Jamaican national record holder is unquestionably the number one female sprinter in the world right now. Inclusive of relays, she has eight global gold medals since her OIympic debut in Beijing, China.
Her coach Stephen Francis calls her the greatest female sprinter over 100m in the history of athletics. With the hardware she has racked up in just a short period of time, it would be difficult to dispute that. In short, no other woman has done what she did, particularly in the 100m over the past six years. Still, the 27-year-old petite 'pocket rocket', as she is called by her many fans, remains as humble as ever, while still focussing on getting better.
"I'm driven from the inside and from certain circumstances what happened in my life. I don't pay attention to where I fall in history. I just want to continue to get better, and leave the sport better than I found it," said Fraser-Pryce. "I'm reserved. I try to stay away from being looked at as number one - just try to remain humble and grounded. Even after I won the three gold medals in Moscow (2013 World Championships), when I got back to my room, I was like, 'how am I possibly going to top this'. My husband says that I never enjoy anything, but enjoyment will come in time. I just want to continue to get better, and ensure that other young athletes could see that you need to work hard and you need to stay grounded and focussed to get to the top. The sky is the limit."
Fraser-Pryce leads by example. After pulling up to her morning workout last Thursday in her Mercedes jeep, she turned on her Bob Marley music through her head phones, and then engaged in an intense training session.
Francis, the head coach of the Maximizing Velocity and Power (MVP) Track Club, has the ultimate confidence in her.
"Stephen is a wonderful man. He looks rough, but inside he is soft-hearted," said Fraser-Pryce. "I admire him for the fact that he believes in me so much, and I believe in him as well. It's a two-way thing. For you to reap the rewards, you have to pay attention to the coach. I've always listened to him. He has not guided me wrong.
"I just want to continue to pave the way for the young men and women in our society. There is many more to come from Shelly-Ann. I still want to run 21 seconds, and I still want to go under 10.7, so I am still set on working hard, being grounded, and just trusting God to give me the strength and the health to do the things that I need to do."
Fraser-Pryce has personal best times of 10.70 seconds and 22.09 seconds in the 100 and 200m respectively. The 100m time is a national record for Jamaica. The world record in the century, her best event, is a blistering 10.49 seconds, set by the late Florence Griffith-Joyner 26 years ago.
"If I told you I didn't think about 10.49, I would be lying, but I'm one of those persons who believe that in order for me to think about a 10.49, I would have to get to a 10.6, and I would have to get to a 10.5," she said. "As it stands now, I'm not even at 10.6 yet. Until I get there, I try not to focus on the 10.49.
"I definitely believe in my heart that I'm a 10.6 sprinter, but nothing happens before its time. I just have to continue to work."
Fraser-Pryce said that she's very competitive when pitted against her rivals such as American Carmelita Jeter, but she's friendly as well.
"When we are competing against each other, we would walk past each other and don't say anything, but when we would have finished, we would stop and have a conversation. I would tell her that I admire her and she would say that she admires me, and stuff like that," said Fraser-Pryce. "It's a healthy rivalry. I like running against the U.S. They have been dominant for so many years, but we (Jamaica) are here now, and we have much more success to come."
Fraser-Pryce said that when she first started winning races, she discovered what her potential was, and how much better she could be if she continued to work hard.
"I knew what was expected of me," said Fraser-Pryce. "It's very hard to stay at the top, but you just have to keep working.
"I remember first walking through the tunnel at 'Champs' (Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association Boys and Girls Athletics Championships), and being nervous. This shows how far I have come in the sport. I understand and analyze someone's start, technique, and the amount of power they are getting from the blocks.
"At my first 'Champs' I was very excited. I made final and finished seventh. The adrenaline was flowing, but after the race I was excited and proud. The Olympics has shown you that you need to be calm and relaxed. 'Champs' has paved the way for a lot of us, and for me, it taught me how to handle certain situations."
Coincidentally, 'Champs' wrapped up on Saturday at the national stadium here in Jamaica, two days after the interview. Fraser-Pryce, who represented Wolmer's Girls at 'Champs' during her high school career, even provided a bit of commentary during the five-day meet. Whereas full-time commentating as an analyst is quite possible once her athletic career would have concluded, Fraser-Pryce said that she highly doubts that she would go into coaching, because she sees the stress that Coach Francis go through on a daily basis, and doesn't know if she can go through the same thing. For now, she's just enjoying her time commentating at 'Champs'.
"Champs is just awesome. I really love it and can't help but to make noise. I'm one of those fans who get my nails done in school colors. I'm big on style, and I focus on what I like."
Fraser-Pryce's animated style has translated right over into her senior career. She is always seen on the tour, or at big meets, with an assortment of hair styles which separates her from the rest. As a matter of fact, it was at her hair salon, Chic Hair Ja in Kingston, where she gave the interview to reporters last Thursday.
"It's not just that I love hair, I have a passion to create jobs," she said, vowing to bring in a barber in short order as well. "A lot of young men and ladies in Jamaica have degrees and are sitting at home because there are no jobs. If I can create a business so that other persons can get employment, then that's healthy for me and for Jamaicans."
Despite accomplishing it all outdoors over the past six years outdoors, this year could have a special meaning in Fraser-Pryce's career, in that she has already won the world indoor title in the 60m in her first year running indoors, she could run in the Commonwealth Games for the first time, and she is expected to be competing in the inaugural world relays in what would be her first trip to The Bahamas.
She spoke about how excited she is to be coming to The Bahamas.
"I have no idea of what The Bahamas looks like, but I can't wait to experience the culture and enjoy the championships there," she said. "I like the beach, not so much to go in the water because I can't swim, but just to sit on the beach and drink a martini and chill.
"I just hope that Jamaica fields more than one team because we have the depth. I'm not a huge fan of relays because there is always some controversy as to who will run what leg but this particular event should be a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to it, just going there and getting it done in The Bahamas. Relays are always exciting, and being a part of this first championship is very huge. I would love to be there to see what unfolds."
The world relays is set for May 24-25, at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium.
At home in Jamaica, Fraser-Pryce's typical day is inclusive of her early training session at 6:30 every morning, taking her five-year-old niece to school at times, dropping by the hair salon, going to the gym around midday, getting a massage if needed, and then back for a second workout in the evenings. At times, she would have photo sessions, shoot commercials, and watch a movie if time permits. Her favorite TV shows are the Jamie Foxx and Steve Harvey shows.
As for her Pocket Rocket Foundation, it is geared toward assisting student-athletes in getting scholarships for secondary and tertiary level education.
"We're just trying to alleviate some of the stress and the problems that they face," said Fraser-Pryce. "When I started high school, I was blessed to have a woman assist me financially. She saw something in me that I didn't even see, and started to fund my education, my books, my lunch... everything.
"At that point, I didn't want anyone to feel sorry for Shelly-Ann, but she showed me compassion and love in so many ways and that in a way made me obligated to do the same thing to other athletes who are coming from impoverished situations. They are here, and a lot of their parents can't afford to send them to school so that they could become better individuals."
Fraser-Pryce's foundation gave out seven scholarships to deserving student-athletes last year.
"It has been really remarkable to see the progress that they have made, especially in the school area," said Fraser-Pryce. "We don't just hand out the checks, but be there for them emotionally as well. The foundation has given me a platform to cause a change for young Jamaicans. I just hope to get more sponsors to come on board so that we could give out more scholarships. These young kids are talented and bright.... they are just unable to pay their way through school."
On two of her tattoos, one on each wrist - one has the word 'hope' on it, and the other has the word 'faith' on it.
"I'm big on faith and hope. Everything that I hope for in life, I have faith that God will provide it for me," said Fraser-Pryce. "I still have a lot of work to do to get where I want to go. I understand what hard work does. I just have to remain dedicated and put in the work."
Apart from track and field, Fraser-Pryce said that she has grown to like football and cricket, but has an appreciation for all sports.
"You measure a democracy by the freedom it gives its dissidents, not the freedom it gives its assimilated conformists."
- Abbie Hoffman
This week, we witnessed the commencement of the debate on gambling legislation in Parliament which sought, among other things, to regularize the operation of web shops in The Bahamas. Much of the intense antagonism to the legislation resulted from the outcome of the January 28, 2013 gambling referendum during which the vote in opposition to the proposition of regulating and taxing the web shops prevailed.
Prior to the referendum, the prime minister proclaimed that he would abide by the referendum results. Subsequently, however, he changed his mind, and, notwithstanding the referendum results, introduced legislation that would regulate and tax web shops. Accordingly this week, we would like to Consider this...Are some of the religious pastors who fought and won the referendum poll correct in their accusation that the prime minister's positional reversal and subsequent actions have signaled the death of democracy in The Bahamas?
The state of play
For decades, Bahamians were not allowed to gamble in the country's casinos, although foreigners were not only permitted, but encouraged to do so. Casino gambling in The Bahamas has grown impressively, and tourist gaming has become ensconced in our tourism industry. However, since the enactment of the relevant legislation, Bahamians were prohibited from participating.
During this same period, and for many decades before, Bahamians have actively engaged in the domestic numbers business, paying small amounts of money to bet that the numbers that they chose would "fall" on any given day, resulting in profits far in excess of the cost of the purchase of such numbers. At one point, depending on the gaming house in which one played, a $2 bet could result in winnings of as much as $900, and in some cases slightly more if the number fell in the precise sequence of the daily drawings.
Such games of chance were never legally sanctioned, but for decades the vast majority of Bahamians turned a blind eye to such betting arrangements by local residents. The society as a whole acquiesced to such practices; law enforcement, and civil society, including the church, generally accepted that playing numbers was as much a part of the Bahamian culture as is Junkanoo.
In 2010, when the Ingraham administration decided to regulate the web shops, government representatives met with web shop owners and determined that the annual revenue from this sector was estimated to be in the range of $400 to $600 million. At the time, the Free National Movement (FNM) government realized that it could not allow the industry to continue to operate in an unregulated environment and drafted regulations for it. The FNM did not proceed with its plans to regulate this sector, in part because, at that time, it could not obtain the support of the church.
The 2013 referendum
Shortly after the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) won the general elections on May 7, 2012, Prime Minister Christie aggressively initiated plans to regularize the web shops. Pursuant to that objective, Prime Minister Christie announced that his government would hold a referendum on January 28, 2013 to determine the will of the people on the matter. The two questions on the referendum ballot sought the people's views on regulating and taxing the web shops and the establishment of a national lottery. The referendum results follow:
o The total number of votes cast against regulating and taxing web shops was 51,146, 62 percent of the total;
o The total number of votes cast in favor of regularization was 31,657, 38 percent of the total.
Many people believe that, although a majority of Bahamians who voted in last year's referendum were against the web shops, the outcome is neither persuasive nor conclusive and that the referendum results do not represent the true national sentiment on this issue.
Particularly in light of the low voter turnout of less than 50 percent of eligible voters, it would be erroneous to conclude that a majority of Bahamians are opposed to regulating and taxing web shops or establishing a national lottery.
The regulation imperative
The government recently reported that web shops cumulatively generate gross annual revenue of $600 million. Given this enormously significant cash flow, it is imperative that they be regulated for two important reasons: consumer protection and national security imperatives.
In the absence of completely shutting down the web shops, perhaps an impossibly achievable objective, the government must have also considered the vastly deleterious effects that either shutting them down or allowing them to continue to operate in an unregulated environment would have on our economy. But doing nothing is a wholly untenable proposition.
If we examine the operations of web shops, we will observe that their owners operate two distinctively different businesses. First, they provide online gaming for their customers. From a consumer protection perspective, it is important for persons who participate in web shop activities to be confident that they are protected from undesirable business practices ranging from online machine manipulation to not being able to collect their winnings if they are successful players. Today, in the absence of regulation, the smooth, fair and equitable operation of web shops is wholly based on trust. Regulation will address those and other operational issues.
The second business in which web shops engage comes as close to banking as anything will, without the requirement or benefit of a banking license. There are possibly more automatic teller machines strewn across the length and breadth of this country that are operated by the web shops owners than those of all the commercial banks combined.
Furthermore, the owners of web shops engage in lending money to many Bahamians for similar purposes as our commercial banks. However, in the case of web shops, this is an unregulated activity.
Additionally, we cannot ignore the short and long-term devastating effects on this economy of the nearly 4,000 persons who are employed by the web shops and what their closure would mean to the nation's employment figures.
Finally, it was absolutely necessary to bring this industry into the formal economy, enabling it to be recognized as a legitimate and significant pillar of the Bahamian economy.
Having regard to all of the above, the government is cognizant that regulation of the industry is imperative in order to protect the country from once again being blacklisted by the international agencies of the large industrialized countries, because of the potential threat that an unregulated sector poses for money laundering and terrorist financing, all of which will be minimized through the regulation of the sector.
Accordingly, there cannot be any doubt whatsoever that regulation and taxation of this sector is in the best interests of the country.
The gaming legislation
The gaming legislation that was recently tabled in Parliament, among other things, contains three major provisions that have resulted in varying degrees of intense debate in the public square. Those elements of the bill provide:
That all web shops would be regulated and taxed;
That a national lottery could be established for at some future date to be determined by the government;
That Bahamians would be allowed to gamble in casinos at some future date to be determined by the government.
The government should be commended for its leadership in this matter. Christie has debunked his detractors' derogatory suggestions that he is indecisive and ineffective. He and his Cabinet have taken the bold decision to do the right thing for the economy and the country in the face of excessive opposition and criticism for taking a decision that is incongruent with the expressed will of the people who voiced their views during the last referendum.
Next week we will address those who criticize the government for taking this bold decision in the face of those results, including the official opposition and some church pastors, with a view to determining whether, in light of the prime minister's courageous leadership in this matter, we are witnessing the death of democracy in our country.
o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis and Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic and Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to email@example.com.
Although the Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) is set to deliver an environmental impact assessment (EIA) as early as this week, some members of the environmental community remain skeptical, and say it's a case of too little, too late.
According to Sam Duncombe, the director of reEarth (http://reearth.org), a full EIA should have been completed before seismic testing began in 2010.
Now, she said, damage may have already been done.
"As far as I know they are not obligated by law, but any person in oil and gas would know seismic testing can cause a lot of problems for ocean life," Duncombe said, who founded the Bahamian watch group in 1990.
"The reality is, if they were really concerned about the Bahamian environment, they would have done an EIA before they did any testing."
Seismic testing, intended to discover whether oil lurks under the sea floor, first began in 2010 by BPC. Three dimensional seismic testing, which sends signals and waves capable of providing a higher level of detail, started this year.
Roberta Quant, an environmental scientist working on behalf of BPC, holds two degrees in Ocean Engineering and another in Environmental Engineering.
She said the company is following international guidelines. "We are not required by law to do a study before or during seismic testing," Quant added. "We took precautions that followed best practices around the world."
Minister of the Environment, Earl Deveaux, agrees that seismic testing will not have an effect on ocean life.
"The fish didn't even know it was taking place," he said. "The argument [that] it has been destructive is faulty."
In September, BPC will release their findings from an EIA done in conjunction with Acorn International, a company that delivers environmental and sustainability consulting for international industries and investors.
The government has hired third party, Black & Veatch Corporation, to review BPC's results and form their own conclusions.
Paul Gucwa, the chief operating officer for BPC, pointed out Acorn International has performed EIAs for major oil and gas companies worldwide. The EIA due next month, he said, will go a long way to determining whether drilling poses an environmental risk. "We are mindful it needs to be done and we're proceeding," Gucwa said.
He added that the University of Miami is also involved in determining what risks or problems could result from a possible oil spill.
This month, Gucwa said Earl Deveaux, Minister of the Environment, was "absolutely right" about his concerns regarding drilling.
The statement followed the resignation of Paul Crevello, the former CEO of BPC. The oil company is expected to announce their new CEO in the next few weeks. BPC has five existing oil exploration licenses and these agreements expire in April 2012.
But despite the EIA and government involvement, Duncombe said the damage possibly caused by seismic testing has not been addressed.
The noise level caused by these tests, she contends, cause significant disruption to various forms of marine life, including whales, dolphins and tuna. "When they shoot that noise down to the seabed, they are creating waves and signals that can kill whales and dolphins," she said. "It rips their ear drums and once that happens, they can stray and die."
Duncombe offered a variety of other problems associated with seismic tests. It could affect fishing by disrupting the pattern and behavior of fish, increase stress hormones in some species and may cause whales and dolphins to veer off away from these Bahamian waters. "These are huge implications," she added.
"So for them to turn around and say they agree on the possible environmental impact from drilling, they don't realize half of the problem is the seismic testing."
Neil McKinney, the president of the Bahamas National Trust, agreed there are concerns regarding seismic testing, but said more information needs to be gathered to know if it truly has any environmental implications. "I don't know if any of us would have any expertise in terms of seismic waves or how you read them," he said.
The main concern, he said, would be that the data is made public and the people have a clear idea of what the government plan is going forward. In other words, people should be aware of what's included in the upcoming EIA.
"Throw it open for public discussion," he said.
"People who have something to say will have a forum to present their views. The people need to have an idea of what is going on and what the governments plan is.